Leon Haslam’s dream ride with HRC in 2020 was often a tough ask in reality, especially as the Covid-19 restrictions hit the Japanese company’s big development push with their all new bike particularly hard.
With a winter-worth of work under their corporate belts, HRC has now addressed some 2020 issues, allowing Haslam to be second fastest rider on day one of the recent Catalunya supported tests. A red flag cut Haslam’s final chance to set a much faster time short on day two, but he was still overall sixth fastest.
“Today I tried but there was a red flag,” explained Haslam to bikesportnews.com. “I think three quarters of the lap would have been a high 1’40s. My last lap of the day was on an SC0 tyre, not a soft SCX, which was OK because we spent 75 per cent of the day finding some things out that we had been struggling with.
“We were chasing ourselves a little but at the end of the day we went back to Wednesday’s settings and then set our fastest lap of the day. For me, we didn’t make big steps today but we definitely cancelled some other things out and finished with not-so-bad a lap time.”
Haslam’s final sixth ranking was also, he thought, the result of some other riders using a Q tyre. “If you look at today some people were struggling to do mid-to-low 1’41 and then suddenly they were a second faster - which is the Q. I tried the X-tyre once but for some reason did not find an advantage. Some other riders did find an advantage so this is something we do need to analyse.”
With his HRC team-mate Alvaro Bautista not riding as much as some riders at Catalunya, while suffering pain after a small motocross training accident, Leon largely went down his own path, as he planned to do anyway. “We had a plan, it is just that today some items we had on the plan we had another thing that made us a little bit confused - something that was unforseen.
“A lot of the morning we wasted, especially when everyone was going fast in the cooler track temperatures, and honestly we only really got going at 1-2 pm this afternoon. For me this was a little frustrating. Then we had to re-evaluate everything we did in the morning again.
We got through it but it was a little bit of a rush because won’t really started after lunch. We had a small problem on the chassis that shouldn’t have been while we were doing the test, so the information from one session to the next was not true information.
“My feeling was bad but it wan’t for what we were testing - it was for something else that wasn’t right. It was not a mistake from anybody but just one of those things. Because we are verifying testing now, everything has to be the same - same tyre at the same time - and that was why the information we had in the morning was not really valid and we had to do it again in the afternoon.”
The positives for Haslam were that there are still some things for him to look forward to, and. As he said, “I feel very consistent with what we have done so far this winter. We have made the lap times more consistent. Yesterday I found the lap time more easily than today - the other guys made a step. We were at a very similar pace to yesterday. It is not a negative, we are still in the developing side, and today was a developing day.”
There is clearly still work to be completed before the Honda is ready for the season, partly after the HRC team found some bad weather in previous tests when evaluating parts back-to-back in January. “We are still on that list (of things to try) and also a lot of the stuff we tried in January we got 40 laps on a damp track. We did the big things and then there was a lot more that we didn’t get to try.
“We’ve got to try a lot here, but it is fundamental things that have to be done in the correct way. It is a shame that Alvaro did not ride because it is always good to have two opinions, and this morning we could have used the information both ways, but honestly we have a very similar opinion of which direction and feeling on the bike, so this is a good thing. There has never been a situation where I have said one thing and he has said another, which is quite a good thing.”
Haslam has used four of his ten days of permitted testing, so has something in the pocket yet to make final decisions and set-up options for the season itself. The testing schedule is not fixed for HRC but they are hoping to test at Motorland Aragon, sometime before the first race of 2021 there in late May.